Introducing the Shift List

Introducing the Shift List

The Shift List

I’ve always been big on ‘to do’ lists but during lockdown I found myself just not wanting to do anything on any of my to do lists. I often talk to clients about the importance of taking one step at a time, doing small things that can help to make a difference or shift a mood.  So I thought I would take this approach to my next to do list – make it easy, not commit to any big tasks but have a few things that might help me to at least feel like I was doing something – a shift list.

My definition of a shift list is a short list of things that you can do for 10 minutes without any need to plan them or get anything ready. It’s a go to list to help you get unstuck. Just a 10 minute commitment to yourself.

One of the key elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to break a cycle of thought and behaviour. Sometimes it’s hard to even envisage moving when you’re in a stuck state. At times it’s hard to be in the mood to do anything and the thought of doing a drawn out task or activity is enough to keep you from doing anything at all. Sometimes we need something to shift us, to get out of a feeling of stuckness – even if just for a few minutes. Those magazine articles that seem pseudo therapy – ‘just go for a walk’ – do have some basis in evidence. If you wait for a mood to shift or to want to do something – often this feeling never comes. The phrase fake it ‘till you make it seems appropriate here.


The shift list basics

  • A shift list should be short (no more than 10 items or you’ll be stuck wondering what to choose) – but enough that you do have a choice. For example, sitting in the garden isn’t so appealing if it’s raining…
  • Each item is easy to do for 10 minutes – committing to 10 minutes of doing isn’t too daunting – better than thinking I have to do this for an hour or a day.
  • You may find that 10 minutes is more than enough. Sometimes you end up doing 30 minutes or doing a couple of things on the list. That is the point – to get you unstuck. But just doing one thing for 10 minutes is enough – a shift list is not there to taunt you, it’s there to help you.


Tips for compiling your shift list

  • Try and include items on the list that require you to move from wherever you are usually sitting or to at least move elsewhere. If you are often on the sofa feeling stuck – then choose something that requires you to move outside or to another room.
  • Choose items that do not require planning or organising in advance or that require you to involve other people.
  • Make it easy to go directly to a shift activity without having to put other steps in place first. For example if music is your thing then have a playlist easily available full of songs that you may want to sing, dance or listen to.


Examples of shift activities

There is no right or wrong thing to have on your shift list. I have known people include cleaning ovens and doing star jumps on theirs – whatever works for you.

My shift list includes these as the things I shift to most often

  • Dance to a song on my playlist
  • Sit or potter in the garden
  • Look at a gardening or recipe book
  • Play with the dog (or stroke him if he’s sleeping!)

Other examples include: – doodle on a sketch pad, a 10 minute YouTube workout, write something in a journal, read a good book…etc

There are a few ideas here too on our YouTube Channel – SHIFT LIST – YouTube


 Revisiting your list

It’s worth reviewing your list every few weeks. Some things may not be working for you (you may have some items that you never seem to choose) or there may be seasonal items that only really work in good (or bad) weather.


Make it visible

However you keep your list, paper or digital, make sure it’s visible – on your phone, on a postcard, on the fridge, next to the kettle – so it’s there when you need it.


Shift when you need it

I have often gone months without using my shift list – other times I’ve gone to it for a few days in a row. No rules, no expectations, just a handy list of shifty things when you need it.